The “lessons” US interventionists will learn from their failure in Afghanistan is like the the alcoholic who “learns” his problems stem from his preference for gin over vodka. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, interventionists are not learning the real lessons in their defeat in Afghanistan. Instead, they are coming up with all sorts of reasons as to why their Afghanistan intervention turned out to be such a big debacle. They say that they’ve learned how to do better with future interventions.
One of the favorite lessons they have learned from this fiasco is encapsulated in the phrase “forever wars.” Some interventionists now say that converting the Afghanistan war into a “forever war” was the big mistake. They say that what they should have been done is just invade, quickly capture or kill Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda, and quickly oust the Taliban regime and replace it with a pro-U.S. regime. Then, quickly get out. No “forever war.”
What these interventionists fail to realize is that that is precisely what President George W. Bush wanted to do. Convinced that U.S. military forces had accomplished their mission (well, except for capturing and killing bin Laden), Bush quickly turned his sights toward Iraq, where he aimed to do what his father had failed to do during the Persian Gulf intervention — oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power and replace him with a pro-U.S. regime.
Now, let’s imagine that Bush had done what interventionists now favor — initiated a quick in-and-out intervention in Afghanistan. Wouldn’t the Taliban quickly have gone on the offensive against the new U.S.-installed puppet regime? If the Taliban had quickly retaken power, then what would have been the point of the intervention, especially given that it had not succeeded in taking out bin Laden? The whole reason that U.S. forces had to stay in Afghanistan and make this a “forever war” was to prevent the Taliban from reversing the regime change that the intervention had achieved.